featured artist

Steven Seidenberg

As an artist who is also a philosopher and a poet, my approach is interdisciplinary, even as the products of these variable modes remain distinct, in turn surrendering the viewer/reader to the compositional depth of multi-valent meaning in the examination of phenomena at the margins of the view. I take for the subject of my visual work the unaffectedly immediate, the fit and thrum of the everyday, with all of its attendant cultural and historical burdens, training the revelatory scrutiny of the lens on the overlooked, the liminal in the perceptual field.

How do you find inspiration when faced with creative blocks?
I don’t really have blocks in the sense I think you mean. For me, there is always some aspect of my artistic project at work, although there are times when the parameters of that project are less clear than others. Because I am both a writer and a visual artist (and even have a practice as a composer and musician, though in a less public context), I am able to turn from one to the other in the pursuit of the work, broadly speaking.

I think one aspect of this generalized imperative is the fact that I am always pursuing encounters with the work of others––reading literary work that compels me, some works that are most central to my practice and my thinking over and over again, and looking through the work of other visual artists in exhibition and photo books and like artifacts.

Additionally, my process is quite complex, not quick at all, so I have many stages in the process of working through and editing a work or a series. As an example, when I’m not shooting (and shooting in many ways constitutes the least time consuming part of my work as a photographer) I’m editing and organizing the work; and when I’m not editing, I’m printing the work, and refining the quality of the printmaking in a particular series and edition. In other words, I am never short of work on completing and refining old projects, even between stints of beginning new ones.
How does your artwork reflect your personal experiences and beliefs?
I would suggest that artistic expression can’t help but exemplify the artist’s epistemological, social, and political positionality, in ways that are both witting and unwitting from the perspective of the maker themselves. In particular, lens-based work is always circumscribed by a conceptual structure, whether the photographer/artist likes it or not––the legacy and burden of indexicality, if you will. My work in particular foregrounds certain philosophical and ideological constraints as modes of circumscription, with the compositional character of the images reflecting the broader sense of the project, and presenting each individual image as both a part of the broader series and an individual work itself.
Can you describe a specific moment or event that profoundly influenced your artistic journey?
It may sound peculiar, but my journey as an artist is completely aligned with my life and journey as a philosopher, and for all intents and purposes both began when I was a young teenager, as I first encountered Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. The intensity of that discourse, its innovation and experimentation, its blind spots and vistas, proved the awakening of my life of examination, leading me through and into the various literary and visual media I employ today. Interestingly, I found out years later that I was not the first artist to engage a practice energized by this very text, as the incomparably brilliant Adrian Piper has detailed her own transformational disquisition in engagement with the first Critique as a conceptual piece in its own right.
Can you recall a moment when a mistake or accident turned into something beautiful or meaningful in your work?
I can’t quite answer this directly, as I don’t really understand anything in my practice as a mistake. I’m a slow artist––nothing happens quickly in delimiting or presenting a project––and part of that absence of alacrity is my deliberative process. I’m always experimenting with my methods and attractions––the parameters and foci that define my projects, such as they are. Even in the activity of exposure, fairly rote for many photographers, I routinely question my own inclinations as I approach a series, looking for ways that I can undermine my own compositional and conceptual assumptions, and refine––or redefine—the voice of that particular series. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it doesn’t I consider that a success as well.
Do you have any quirky rituals or habits that help get you in the creative zone?
Nothing I always do, but I have a history with OCD, and although it is not debilitating at this point in my life, I still count, I’m always counting, noting asymmetries and the dispositive layout of my surroundings, or my mise-en-scene. It puts me in an emotional state that is somehow both meditative and edgy at once, a kind of hyperfocus that is essential to my work in the field and in the studio. It’s never not there, but I’ve learned to use it as a tool when I need to fix the limits of the various stimuli in the liminal field.
StevenSeidenberg-01_Neolithic Untitled
Neolithic Dorset
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Steven Seidenberg 02 Untitled
The Architecture of Silence
Steven Seidenberg 06 Untitled (Architectural Detritus)
Steven Seidenberg 10 Untitled (Plain Sight)
Steven Seidenberg 7 Untitled (Cloth Decay on Tile Floor)
Steven Seidenberg 8 Untitled (Couch and Window)
Steven Seidenberg 9 Untitled (Development in the Fields)
The Plastic Flowers of Staglieno
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Venetian Gas Valve Covers
Steven Seidenberg 16 Untitled
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Steven Seidenberg 7 Untitled